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Palace intervenes to avert pork, chicken holiday

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Malacanang has intervened to avert the five-day pork and chicken holiday this weekend and called on the Departments of Finance (DoF)and Agriculture (DA), and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to sit down with the hog and poultry growers in a six-hour emergency meeting on Monday.

Swine and Development Council (SDC) and United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) officials had not completely dropped the threat to mount a holiday, but decided to hold it in abeyance for another two weeks to allow the government to implement corrective measures that would eliminate "technical" smuggling and over-importation that had already killed 20 percent of the backyard industry.

"We have agreed to hold in abeyance the mounting of a nationwide five-day pork and chicken holiday because Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala promised to put in place the corrective measures in two weeks," said AGAP party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones.

"So far, so good. We hope this could lead to something more solid and for our demands to be acted upon as soon as possible without us having to resort to a nationwide pork and chicken holiday,” said Daniel Javellana Jr., council director and chairman of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., referring to the meeting with concerned government agencies.

"This was the first time that the pork growers and poultry raisers met with the DoF, DA and BoC officials in one meeting,” said Edwin Chen, president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines.

Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon, on the other hand, said the demands of the hog raisers and poultry growers were "doable".
"Most, I already did before the meeting. The others, we just needed to explain to them. It was a good friendly meeting. Just as I said before, mag-usap-usap na lang instead of exchanges through media," he said.

During the meeting, Biazon told the hog and poultry growers that he had already started a revamp in the importation section of the bureau.
"Commissioner Biazon and Secretary Alcala agreed to jointly purge the list of existing importers and scrutinize the new set of applicants," said Durian Tan from the SDC.

Briones said some of the Top 10 importers had allegedly "fictitious addresses and owners" while the No. 1 importer only had P31,000 in paid-up capital but was able to import some P650-million worth of frozen meat.

"We have nothing against the legitimate importers. What we are fighting are the smugglers that flood the wet markets with imported frozen meat that was being passed off as fresh meat and unfairly dragging down the price because they do not pay the correct tariff," he said.
Briones said government lost some P3.7 billion in revenues annually due to smuggling and over-importation.

Javellana said the DA and BoC were considering bringing back to 2007 level the 40 percent tariff on offals, skin, fats and rind.
The government had brought down to five percent the tariff on offal after the US government pressured the Philippines and lobbied to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to bring down the levy in exchange for a favorable action on the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice, he explained.
"We find it a bit unfair that we are being used as a bargaining chip for the QR on rice," he said.

During the meeting, Alcala and Biazon also agreed to increase the reference price for swine to US$ 2.10, US$ 2.12 and US$ 2.97 a kilo from US$ 0.80, US$ 0.97 and US$ 1.23 a kilo for chicken from US$ 0.54.
Both officials also assured the stakeholders to be more vigilant in confiscating smuggled pork and chicken meat.

They also assured the stakeholders that they would hold dialogues more often, considering that they have not tackled other equally important matters such as the scrapping of DA Administrative Orders 5 an 6 that allow imported meat to be sold in the wet markets.

by: PNA




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